We all have routines in our daily, weekly and monthly schedules. Patterns that help us accomplish tasks and focus energies. I really don’t want to have to think through the process of brushing my teeth every morning. Others rely on their cup of coffee and the newspaper to get their day going.
The church incorporates a variety of routines to reinforce our understanding and experience of our journey with Christ. We are about to begin the second of the two major cycles of Christian worship. The first is Advent/Christmas/Epiphany. On Wednesday, February 10 (Ash Wednesday), we enter the second cycle Lent/Easter/Pentecost. Each cycle has a season of preparation and reflection (Lent), a season of celebration (Easter) and a season of mission and ministry (Pentecost). Together they remind us of the story of Christ and focus our energies on the life of faith.
Lent reminds us of the 40 days (which in the church excludes Sundays) that Jesus spent in the wilderness, preparing for his witness to God’s Kin-dom. Traditionally, the spiritual practices associated with Lent include refraining from sweets, meat or “fats,” alcohol, smoking… as a way of sharing Jesus wilderness experience. That circle has grown to incorporate other routine changes to create an awareness of readiness for mission: reduced time for electronics (internet, TV, video games), taking on a discipline of prayer or meditation…
Frequently those pattern changes are temporary, till Easter (with some joy and longing to complete the season and “get back” to familiar forms.) However, I have found that there is a potential for “reformation” of our faithful living if we experience our Lenten disciplines as trial runs and a new pattern for revising our practices. So limiting time on the use of electronics may open the doorway to new levels of personal conversation. Forty days of prayer and reflection may lead to a new appreciation for setting aside time for quiet. Reduced consumption (certain foods, alcohol, coffee drinks) may create an awareness that they are not as “critical” to our quality of life as we assumed.
May this season of preparation through our Lenten Journey together open up ways to share the path of Jesus in preparing for our witness and ministry.